In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (January 13, 2017), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie offers his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories for the beginning of the next fiscal year (October 2016) and beyond.                                                                                                   

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: January 13, 2017

QUESTION: What can we expect in terms of movement of FB-2 Final Action Dates?

ANSWER: All of the family-based categories will continue to move at a rate that is consistent with the current pace. I do not expect any dramatic forward movement or slowing down in the coming months. FB-2A should continue to move an average of three weeks each month.

The only family-based categories which may change in terms of the rate of forward movement are the Philippines categories. There is very low demand for FB-2B and F-4 Philippines. Cut-off dates for the other Philippines FB categories have advanced at a faster pace initially, but if demand for FB-2B and F-4 starts to increase, movement in the other categories may start to slow.

F-4 China will reach the F-4 Worldwide date in March.

F-4 India will continue to move but is not expected to reach the F-4 Worldwide date until summer. If there are unused numbers from the other preference categories that fall down to F-4 India, the cut-off date may advance more quickly.

Movements in the family-based Final Action Dates may start to slow in the second half of the fiscal year. Updated projections will appear in the next Visa Bulletin.

QUESTION: Can we expect to see any movement in the “filing” dates during the fiscal year, or is movement generally confined to the beginning of the fiscal year?

ANSWER: I monitor these dates throughout the fiscal year and there may be some updates in the coming months. Changes in the filing dates tend to be more dramatic at the beginning of the fiscal year, but changes are sometimes required in the second half of the year based on demand patterns and future needs.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS. Number usage to date is higher than last year across the board.

EB-4 EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, HONDURAS AND MEXICO. Since our last column, Charlie has received information that potential demand for EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico prior to the current Final Action Date could be significant. For example, there are more than 1,500 pre-adjudicated applications for EB-4 El Salvador alone. Because there is already enough pre-adjudicated demand beyond the current date to reach the annual targets, the Final Action Date will continue to hold. If the date were to advance now and there was a subsequent flood of demand with earlier priority dates, this could cause the date to retrogress.

EB-1. Demand in this category remains strong and a cut-off date for EB-1 India and EB-1 China will need to be imposed later this fiscal year. Charlie will hold off doing so for as long as possible, but is confident that it will happen. When it does, members should not expect the date to retrogress quite as far back as last fiscal year when the date rolled back to 2010. Charlie continues to expect that the imposition of a Final Action cut-off date in these categories will be relatively short-lived and that EB-1 China and India will return to “Current” in October when the FY 2018 numbers become available.

EB-2. Tremendous demand resulting from EB-3 upgrades means EB-2 India will not advance in February and will likely hold at the current Final Action cut-off date of April 15, 2008 in March. If demand for EB-2 Worldwide remains strong, it is unlikely that EB-2 India will be able to benefit from any unused numbers and may be restricted to its 2,800 per country limit. If the trend in demand continues, EB-2 India is unlikely to recover to last year’s date. Members should not expect any significant movement in this category until at least July or August. Charlie continues to monitor this very closely. If the current surge in demand is not sustained, and Worldwide demand, or India demand with early priority dates subsides, more forward movement than what is currently projected may be possible.

Unlike EB-2 India, EB-2 China did advance somewhat to November 15, 2012 since demand in this category is not currently exceeding the monthly target.

EB-3. EB-3 Worldwide demand has subsided. The decrease in demand that allowed Charlie to advance the Final Action cut-off date earlier this fiscal year continues, and allowed him to advance the date again to October 1, 2016. While this trend may continue, due to current USCIS processing times, additional forward movements after March are unlikely to impact number usage in this category this fiscal year.

EB-3 China downgrades have not yet materialized at the level which had been experienced in past years. Nevertheless, Charlie is not advancing the Final Action date in this category significantly in an effort to avoid retrogression if demand from downgrades materializes in the coming months as expected.

Members should expect consistent forward movement in the EB-3 Philippines Final Action Date. Charlie expects this category to recover significantly but does not expect it to reach the Worldwide date.

EB-5. The EB-5 China categories should continue to advance at the rate of 1 to 2 weeks at a time.

You may access the February 2017 Visa Bulletin here and the January 2017 Visa Bulletin here.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.